Have you ever had one of those nights where you wake up the next morning, and you can still smell the sick from the last night in your nostrils?
The older you get, the grayer and longer those nose hairs grow, and the more information they store and collect.
While my nose hairs could tell my history better than cutting a redwood in half and counting the rings to determine its age, I’m personally having a hard time recalling where the last four weeks of my life have gone.
I check my jaw, still unshaven and unkempt. So I didn’t go to a barber, I know no barbers will tell me of where I’ve been or why I’ve gone. This much is for certain. I am a caveman of facial hair.
This is about the time where I wish I had a friend like Sherlock Holmes, or Shawn from Psych. One of those people who can just figure out everything with a single look at you, you know, the ones that exist in movies and books but never in real life. Those people who have a photographic superpower unbeknownst to the world. The ones that could point toward the dirt under my fingernails and let me know that it only grows beyond 107th street. And when you mix that with the salty brine soaked trousers, indicating a night of raucous saltwater swimming, the likelihood of your path across the southern coastline of… after your match with… with…
… It’ll come to me.
My head hurts. I look around, tall buildings on either side of me. There’s one of those green dumpsters with it’s top lids unfurled, smelling up the entire alleyway. Here’s the thing, in an alley, you could be in any city. Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, until you past the alley’s edge and head to civilization again, you might as well be in the wrestling equivalent of Parts Unknown.
I creak as I sit up, leaning my upper body against the cold red bricks as they scratch at my lower back. I wince, blinking a few times as the morning sun is much too bright.
I bring up my hand to rub my eyes and smack myself with a beer bottle, 40 oz, right in the face. It’s duct taped to my hand. At least I didn’t lose it. I take a free hand and spin off the top….
Like how most of my best days start… I think to myself, I’mma regret this later…
… and then I take a few swigs of morning courage.
I was born in 1975. I attended my first wrestling show that year, as a baby. My first memory was in that ring.
Fast forward something like 20 plus years, ‘97 was quite a red year for me. I moved to the states, I became a Hardcore Icon, battering my body and my brains for the pleasure of the fans. I was the death defiler, the risk taker, the suicidal lunatic. My name was High Flyer, and I had to fly higher than everyone else.
Times, they change. I got older. Three knee surgeries later… I dropped the ol’ moniker, cause it don’t fit right no more, y’hear? So I changed my style, cause I’m not going to go get a fucking day job at the Sev…. I took a bit of the high risk out, actually a lot of the high risk out… focused on my ground game, sharpened my skills as a ring general. Became a more well rounded competitor.
I wasn’t High Flyer anymore. I didn’t wow people with my dives. I didn’t just fall off things. I wrestled. And beyond a natural talent, I learned, grew and became one of the best this sport ever seen.
I spent the next decade becoming exactly the type of well rounded grapple-fighter man that a beast like John Sektor would respect, would enjoy battling for however long we get to dance. We’ve both been doing this a long time John, circling around different oceans. For me, it’s the only life I’ve ever known. I see the same look in your eye. It brings me more joy than you can imagine.
But I look at you and wonder what could be. Cause you’ve got the belt… and I want it. I want all shiny things. They’re shiny. Why wouldn’t I want it? Why wouldn’t I want the very accolade that gives men like us MEANING. Long run though, difference ‘tween us? You’ve got the bosses’ ear, even if he’s gone deaf as well as blind. Best Alliance no more but you said it yourself. You never NEEDED Lee Best to BE the best.
For me, I’m fighting just to keep fighting.
So fuck it, I respect you. I’d be a fool not to say I didn’t look forward to this match on paper years ago. You’re a generational talent. You’re John f’n Sektor. I’m High f’n Flyer.
Let’s go sell out another Stadium.
So, I spent the good part of two weeks wandering around Chicago after Bottom Line. Losing to Rah, and not really reigniting the spark of competition in him left a bit of a sour taste. So, I figured, what better way to punish myself than living the life of a vagabond?
It’s honestly not that much different from a wrestler. Different bed every night. Sleep wherever your head rests. Make the best with what you’ve got. Train where you can. Lots of walking. Eat little. Push yourself. It’s pretty healthy of a lifestyle. As long as you avoid the meth or heroin or crack or…
I haven’t binged any TV in three weeks, and the only public transit I rode was to sleep for six to eight hours. I walked around with weights on my legs, as I always do, so when I hit the ring… I just FEEL faster.
This is good for me.
In the end, living as a vagabond when you’re a wrestling celebrity… you’re more of a traveling showman than homeless man. No matter how much my beard screams to the contrary. Doors do open because I’m a member of the HOW roster. It’s very helpful.
So helpful, I was tipped off. About 3 days ago, I heard about some blonde woman who was asking questions about me. Wanted to get in touch. Had… machinations in mind. You see, I don’t carry a cell phone, don’t believe in ‘em, so big brother can’t track me. I have a twitter but it’s mostly just me yelling at Mary and her typing what insults I shout into “the cloud,” as she calls it.
I’m literally Abe Simpsons, Old Man Shouts at Cloud.
So anyway, this random woman got close to a Priest who kept his church open late for the homeless to rest their head. Two nights there and she shows two days later. Mario told me. Then Liam let’s me know, she’s at the sandwich shop I like on the corner. You know the one. The one I’m at every day at 12:42 pm.
So I can’t even eat sandwiches anymore.
But here’s the thing. I’m Jack Harmen. I’m High Flyer. I LOVE my sandwiches.
So, I’m here, waiting on my sandwich. It’s the best in the city. Reminds me of Philly. My face stuffed full of sandwich on the wall in a signed 8×10. On one side, Pat Sajak on his own 8×10, with Harrison Ford on the other. The black and white checkboard floor pattern reminiscent of a class 60’s diner. A large rack full of chips and pretzels to one side, with a very sparse and limited menu hovering above a till.
DING, order up. I eagerly reach out, grabbing my sandwich in one hand, and chomp down on a delicious turkey on rye with all the fixings. Through a mouthful of moist delicious turkey, I turn and see her. I cough and sputter up a bit of turkey before I realize my past has caught up to me…
“I’ve been looking ALL OVER for you!” a woman shouts, her voice oh so shrill. I recognized her, young, blonde, buxom, an idiot. But she’s been helpful. Oh so very helpful. “What the hell is wrong with you? Did you become a sea captain of Poor people? Someone said you were repairing bikes for kids but I knew that was bullshit.” I don’t respond right away and I imagine she has ADHD. She kicks me once. In the shin. Ow. “What? You don’t remember what we talked about?! Do you have, like, amnesia?!” she asks, concerned.
And so, with the flash of a Cheshire cat, I smile up at her and say. “You know what? I guess I do.” I chuckle, just once, so she wouldn’t catch on. “Who am I again?”